Knesset Advances Legislation to Legalize “Wildcat Outposts” in OPT

The Knesset passed on Wednesday, December 16, a preliminary draft of a bill that would provide government funding to Jewish West Bank settlement outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) that were established without government permission. The so-called “Outposts Law,” initiated by settler and far-right lawmaker MK Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina), passed by a vote of 59-39 in its preliminary reading in the main chamber of the Knesset. For the bill to become law, it needs to pass three additional votes.

Israeli settlers from a "wildcat outpost" attack Palestinians in the occupied West Bank while soldiers merely look on.

Israeli settlers from a “wildcat outpost” attack Palestinians in the occupied West Bank while soldiers merely look on. (Photo: WAFA)

This is not the first time the Knesset has tried to legalize en masse settlement building after the fact. Three years ago, Israel’s parliament approved a Settlement Regularization Law that allowed the state to retroactively authorize illegal settler homes built on private Palestinian property in cases where compensation had been offered to the Palestinian landowners. However, the High Court of Justice struck down that legislation as unconstitutional.

Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Alternate Prime Minster Benny Gantz were present for the preliminary vote on Smotrich’s bill. Defense Minister Gantz had rejected the legislation when it was proposed in government deliberations earlier this week. But three senior members of his Blue & White faction voted in favor of the bill on Wednesday evening — MKs Omer Yankelevitch, Pnina Tamano-Shate, and Hila Shai-Vazan.

Joint List head MK Aymen Odeh (Hadash) charged that the legislation was a form of de facto annexation. “The Outposts Law is another sign that attempts to annex the West Bank and expropriate land from Palestinians living there have never stopped,” Odeh said. “The law strengthens the one-state colonial and apartheid vision — with two different legal systems, one for Jews and one for Arabs,” Odeh wrote in a tweet.

According to Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), the proposed law is a “war crime that steals land from Palestinians,” further remarking and that the only possible sovereignty in the West Bank is that of a Palestinian state.

During the debate Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn (Blue & White) warned that the legislation was likely unconstitutional under Israeli law and “problematic in the sphere of international law,” but his message went unheeded. On the same day, December 16, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of Palestinian self-determination. The resolution was passed by 168 votes in favor, five against, with 10 abstentions.

Riyad Malki, Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates thanked the countries that voted in favor of the draft resolution, which affirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

He called on the international community to find mechanisms to implement its obligations and resolutions to safeguard the rights of all peoples in the interest of maintaining international peace and security.

Malki called on the member states of the United Nations to shoulder their responsibilities to protect the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and to take practical measures against the Israeli occupation and those rogue states that encourage its violations and crimes. Malki said that the positions of the countries that vote against the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, far from being based on legal principles, makes them complicit in Israel’s colonialism and other crimes against humanity.

Related: CPI posts on the previous Settlement Regularization Law ultimately declared unconstitutional